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2024 outlook: Moving from strange to bizarre

People are running against Trump and Biden, but pose no threat

Conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. testifies to the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on July 20.
Conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. testifies to the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on July 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

So, let me be sure I have this right.

The front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump, is a twice-indicted former president who lost his bid for reelection by 7 million votes and lies continuously about himself, his opponents and the polls.

His 2020 running mate, Mike Pence, who stood by Trump loyally, has zero chance of being nominated for president next year because he has been rejected by both the Trump wing of the GOP and the anti-Trump wing of the party.

Trump’s most formidable Republican opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has slid so far in the polls that he needs to “relaunch” his presidential effort. In particular, he needs to convince GOP primary voters that he is a reasonably normal guy who can engage in small talk with voters.

The most combative GOP hopeful in the race, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning his party’s nomination, but hopes to damage Trump’s candidacy.

After an early announcement of her candidacy, former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has all but disappeared in the national media, which is more interested in Trump’s legal problems, his political prospects and DeSantis’ relaunch.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott remains an interesting Republican long shot because rather than belittle his adversaries, he continues to use upbeat rhetoric. I’m betting there are more than a few Republicans who would love to nominate a conservative Black nominee who would help the party rebut the Democratic argument that the GOP is a racist party.

There are others in the GOP race, but I’m not sure why they deserve to be taken seriously as possible nominees.

In any case, all the Republican hopefuls hope to boost their candidacies in the party’s first debate on Aug. 23 — except for Trump, the clear favorite in the race, who is likely to bypass the event. He’s apparently busy that day, washing his hair or playing golf or appearing at a political rally, and he sees no reason to elevate any of his opponents by appearing at a debate with them.

While Republican hopefuls are busy complaining that President Joe Biden is a socialist and trying to stand out from the crowded field, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running an impossible campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Kennedy is the Democrat that Republicans like because he opposes vaccinations even while saying he does not. In other words, he has Trump’s schtick down to a tee.

Kennedy is a conspiracy theorist who gets some support in the polls from some Democrats who are unhappy with Biden’s bid for a second term — and from Democrats who remember the Kennedy family but don’t know how loony Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is.

RFK Jr. is not a serious contender for the Democratic nomination, but he is angry and wants attention, even if it’s only from Republicans.

Meanwhile, the incumbent president’s poll numbers are terrible, even though the unemployment rate is low, inflation is slowing, and he oversaw the passage of legislation to protect the semiconductor industry and to repair the nation’s infrastructure.

Is Biden too old to run for a second term? Of course. But there are no obvious alternatives for Democrats as long as he is running, and his physical and verbal stumbles haven’t stopped him from having a reasonably successful first term.

More importantly, the 2024 race is still likely to be primarily a referendum on Trump, who has no respect for limited government, a free press, an independent judiciary, America’s allies around the world, and laws and norms that made the United States what it was before Trump entered the 2016 presidential race.

DeSantis isn’t much better and might be worse if his fight with Disney and his cultural combat in the Sunshine State predicts his future as a national leader.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans seem intent on handing the House to Democrats in next year’s elections.

The highly visible Freedom Caucus makes it easy for Democrats to paint the GOP as extreme, and Trump’s problems with suburban voters, combined with some new state maps, will likely help Democrats in the 2024 election.

Finally, “No Labels,” which promotes itself as a moderate movement, plans to nominate a centrist presidential ticket if the two major parties nominate the same nominees as they did in 2020.

Never mind that a “third party” No Labels ticket would have no chance — and I mean no chance — of winning 270 electoral votes, or that it could well divide the anti-Trump vote, thereby handing the White House to the former president for another term.

If all of this isn’t crazy enough for you, just remember that we still have 15 months of surprises and mistakes that are likely to leave you dumbfounded, shell-shocked, and flummoxed before, during and after Americans go to the polls.  Let me know when the space aliens arrive.

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